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Sliding KMT vote count leaves its future uncertain: pundits

2010/11/28 00:42:15

Taipei, Nov. 27 (CNA) The ruling Kuomintang (KMT) had reason tocelebrate Saturday after winning mayoral races in three out of thefive big cities up for grabs, but the victory did not guarantee arosy future for the party because voter support continued to wane,pundits said.

By winning a majority of the mayoral races, especially afterappearing vulnerable in all five municipalities, the KMT seemed tohave stemmed a run of electoral setbacks since scoring resoundingvictories in the 2008 legislative and presidential elections.

It lost a seat in last year's local leader elections and sufferedfive consecutive losses in legislative by-elections over the past twoyears.

But the overall vote count in Saturday's polls showed that thehuge margin of superiority the KMT held over the rival DemocraticProgressive Party (DPP) in the presidential election, when MaYing-jeou won by 2.2 million votes, has all but evaporated.

Despite winning three seats, the KMT won only 3.4 million, or44.5 percent, of all votes cast in the mayoral races, compared with3.8 million votes, or 49.9 percent, won by the DPP.

About 60 percent of the electorate participated in Saturday'selections, and in 2009, when the other 40 percent voted in localelections, the KMT won by a margin of only 110,000 votes, meaning theDPP actually picked up more combined votes than the KMT in the tworaces.

With Saturday's elections framed by the media as a midtermreferendum on Ma's policies, the declining vote count was not asurprise, considering the problems many incumbents in democraciesaround the world have faced since the global economic downturn.

"For any incumbent, the midterm election is always a bigchallenge, " said Chu Chao-hsiang, a professor at the GraduateInstitute of Political Science of National Taiwan Normal University.

"Therefore it was predictable that the number of seats would staythe same while the vote count shrunk, " he said. "The pertinentquestion here is by how much it shrinks. "

Even the KMT Secretary-General King Pu-tsung was worried aboutthe less-than-ideal overall vote count.

Speaking at a post-election press conference, King said thatalthough pan-blue candidates took three of the five seats, thesliding vote share signaled the party needed to be on "high alert"from now on.

"The KMT will have a thorough discussion to examine thiselection's campaign and results. We will use tonight's outcome as areference for how to improve in the future," he said.

According to King, the KMT's disappointing vote share in thiselection was mainly because of a poor showing in the Kaohsiung race,where the pan-blue vote was split two ways between the party'scandidate and a DPP defector.

In fact, the margin of victory by the DPP over the KMT inKaohsiung was greater than the sum of the KMT's margins of victory inTaipei City, Xinbei City (currently Taipei County) and Taichung Citycombined.

KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng believed, however, that Saturday'sresults could not be used as a reference for the 2012 presidentialelection because the candidates would be different.

But KMT colleague Lai Shyh-bao said it would be unwise tominimize the DPP's accomplishment. The vote count indicated thatpan-KMT swing voters could be easily swayed, he said.

He pointed to KMT candidate Eric Chu's small margin of victory inXinbei City despite being the party's main rising star and said thatvoters are buying the atypical approach taken by the DPP in thiselection of "going pink" instead of a taking a more hardlineideological approach.

"I would be remiss if I didn't compliment the DPP on fighting agood fight. The KMT must carefully evaluate what went wrong insteadbasking in its short-lived triumph," he said.

Political commentator Huang Chuang-hsia said one of the keyfactors in the KMT's poor performance was a weak central governmentthat has left many disappointed.

"Taiwan's political landscape is shifting fast in the DPP'sfavor, and if the KMT does not promptly deal with longstanding issuesincluding the widening disparity of wealth in the country, it willend up hurting the KMT even before 2012, such as in next year'slegislative elections," he analyzed.

Taking the Tainan race for example, former presidential adviserLin Huo-wang said KMT candidate Kuo Tian-tsai lost only by 17,000votes when he ran for the same position in 2005 under DPP rule.

This time, even with the KMT in power in the central government,he lost by over 200,000 votes against his DPP rival.

"The KMT must not think a good economy is the be-all and end-allsolution because when you have a grossly uneven distribution ofwealth for too long, the public will revolt," he said.

(By Jenny W. Hsu)